The Sacrificial Egg by Chinua Achebe, 1959
The magic trick:
Using a small, emotionally painful situation to make a larger point about an interesting intersection moment for a culture
We’re off to Nigeria this week.
And this story gets right to the tug of war in the country between progress and tradition. The protagonist is caught in the middle. Nearly every sentence describes one or the other – remarkable urbanity or community superstition. Unfortunately, smallpox is where the two realms intersect. The superstitious approach remains favored over science, and it’s too the great detriment of the city and, very specifically here, to our protagonist. And that’s quite a trick on Achebe’s part.
Julius thought about these things as he now stood at the window looking down on the silent, empty market. Who would have believed that the great boisterous market could ever be quenched like this? But such was the strength of Kitikpa, the incarnate power of smallpox. Only he could drive away all those people and leave the market to the flies.
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